Food & Drink

June 12, 2014

Pintful: Mobile beer garden in Raleigh is part art, part bar

The Wander Box, a pop-up beer garden at the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh, is making the connection between craft beer and art.

For many brewers, craft beer is art.

A beer often speaks to the brewer’s style, with each ingredient an artistic choice. And the combination of grain, hops, yeast and water are a palette from which the brewer can impart flavors and sensations on a taster’s palate.

This is an often overlooked aspect of craft beer. But a pop-up beer garden at the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh is making the connection.

An urban designer and craft beer fan designed a mobile bar, carved from a decommissioned shipping container, and planted grass and a dozen picnic tables in the front yard at the warehouse district museum.

The first-of-its-kind contraption, dubbed The Wander Box, is part art and part beer. It’s as creative as anything inside the museum and features 12 taps.

“Craft brew is an art and beer lovers and the beer community treat it like that,” said creator Matt Tomasulo.

The idea evolved from his interest in re-creating urban spaces and drew inspiration from other cities where shipping containers were used to develop new businesses. “It’s a shorter-term project to kind of show what is possible,” he said.

The concept also embraces another theme in craft beer – community.

The picnic tables feature a decal that says “make room for new friends” and the benches are tattooed with the word “scoot” at the ends.

It fits with CAM’s mission, said executive director Gab Smith. “We try to be the living room for Raleigh and this is just a wonderful manifestation of that,” she said.

The beer garden’s arrival coincided with the opening of a new art installation at the museum, a mind-twisting sculpture made from 62 miles of thread, and a summer-long photo exhibit about Durham Bulls baseball. The museum is free from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. when the beer garden is open.

Built by Tactile Workshop, a Raleigh designer and fabricator, the solar-powered box is split into two sections, a yellow-painted bar and a walk-in cooler, chilled with the help of a window air-conditioning unit.

The sponsorship from beer companies and proceeds from sales – a portion of which go to the museum – will help cover the project’s cost. Raleigh Brewing and Deep River in Clayton are listed as brewery sponsors.

The box arrived on a flat-bed truck June 5, and when its installation at CAM ends Sunday, Tomasulo hopes to take it to other locations in the Triangle.

What I’m tasting

Deep River, one of the Wander Box’s sponsors, makes a Twisted River Wit that is perfect for this time of year.

A wit is a German wheat beer known by other iterations as a white or witbier and shares characteristics with hefeweizens. Light in color and body, it can pack a flavorful punch.

Deep River’s Belgian witbier, true to the style, incorporates hints of orange and other citrus flavors that make it refreshing.

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